“Tony Martial came from France….” but not many people had heard of the 19-year-old when he became the world’s most expensive teenager, signing for £36M (with the potential to reach £56M) back on that 2015 Deadline Day.
But oh how he introduced himself to the United Faithful on his Old Trafford debut – gliding through the Liverpool defence and coolly slotting in United’s third goal. In doing so, he laid down his marker and by the end of his first season he had scored 17 goals across all competitions – his best goal scoring season to date.
At the end of it, however, there were changes aplenty. Louis van Gaal was replaced by José Mourinho and Zlatan signed, taking Martial’s No.9 jersey.
Whether any of these were a factor or it was a case of Second Season Syndrome is debateable, but Martial went on to score just 8 goals from his less than preferential position on the wing. With Mourinho’s desire for his wingers to defend deep and break at pace, he had to make a huge adjustment to his game – and it didn’t exactly bode well.
When Lukaku signed and took the No.9 jersey from Zlatan, Anthony’s chances to play as striker declined even further and he often appeared to sulk through his performances. Anyone who fails to put in a shift for Mourinho gets put on the bench and often stays there. Throw in the addition of Sanchez for competition on the wing, and rumours of strife in his personal life, and there was a very real feeling that it would only end one way.
And he did lose out on a place at the world cup as well as a winner’s medal, thanks in no small part to Mourinho’s generosity in providing Sanchez with every opportunity to impress.
But still the writing wasn’t yet desecrating the wall…
The fans were still on board – still longing to see the Martial of the first season, a player with great technical ability, pace, finish and touch of class. We all recognised the demise of his form under new management but as the winds of change blew again we began to wonder if a similar change might work in his favour. After all, having a powerful centre forward to hold up the play is not Ole’s style. Pace, pace and more pace is – and Martial, alongside Rashford, was just the man for that.
Within a couple of weeks of Ole’s interim management period, we could almost see a weight lifted from Martial’s shoulders. Enjoyment was once again etched on his face, a new contract was signed and to top it off the No.9 jersey was returned to its rightful owner. In it, he has scored 2 goals in 3 games and, these days he looks dangerous every time he is on the ball. His movement has improved, helped no doubt by having fast, skilful, unselfish players around him, and there is no doubt anymore that he will win games for us.
He will cause teams a lot of trouble and at 23-years-old he will only get better.
Important goals like the 93rd minute winner in the FA Cup semi Final in 2016 have once again become a possibility and when we get back into the Champions League, Martial will have the platform, belief and maturity to prove that he can be the match winner that Utd turns to.
“50 Million down the drain?” No chance. Over the next couple of seasons that price tag will seem like a bargain.